Pass the Mustard

Field Mustard (Brassica campestris)
The terminal flower cluster of Field Mustard (Brassica campestris).

While I love finding interesting, rare, and unusual plants sometimes it’s fun to take a closer look at some of the common weeds that grow in urban areas. The walkway around the Courtenay Airpark is an excellent place to be introduced to the hunt for introduced species. I’ve found a cosmopolitan collection of Eurasian plants, garden escapees and invasives along the edges of the pathway.

This morning, my attention was attracted to the bright yellow flowers of Field Mustard (Brassica campestris). This introduced weed hails from Eurasia and is commonly found growing in waste areas, disturbed soil, and abandoned lots. It is fairly wide spread.

Field Mustard (Brassica campestris)
Field Mustard's (Brassica campestris) four petaled flower, a characteristic feature of plants in Brassicaceae.

Mustards (Brassicaceae) include plants like turnips, rapeseed, radishes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. The flowers of this family are characterized by being radially symmetrical and having 4 petals, 4 sepals, and 6 stamens. Most produce long pod-like fruits called siliques (longer) or silicles (shorter).

Field Mustard has pale yellow flowers that grow in a small terminal cluster and from the leaf axils. The stem leaves are alternate with basal lobes and eventually become clasping further up the stem. The basal leaves are lyrate meaning that they are deeply divided with opposite paired lobes and a single lobe at the end of the leaf.

Field Mustard leaf (Brassica campestris)
The clasping leaf of Field Mustard (Brassica campestris) and flower stem emerging from the leaf axil.

Taking a closer look at this plant reveals that even weeds can be beautiful. I’ve also noticed that the kale (also in Brassicacea) that overwintered in our garden is starting to come into flower as well so I’ll make an effort to get some photographs of its flowers and leaves for comparison.